Bucket-list escapes, private tours gain favour among post-pandemic travellers

Multi-day tours have been in existence for a long time, but the pandemic has changed travelling habits and trends, with industry stakeholders noticing that small groups, private and personalised itineraries, and bucket-list type holidays are becoming the order of the day.

Lukas C.C. Hempel, founder and CEO of Bookingkit, said: “There’s a tectonic shift in what kinds of activities people want to do. The clear losers are large group activities, while outdoor activities and small group activities are winners.”

More vacationers checking off bucket-list destinations post-Covid; a female tourist hiking at Gokyo Ri in Nepal pictured 

Manuel Hilty, CEO and co-founder at Nezasa, shared during a session titled The Rise of Multi Day Tours at ITB Berlin: “We’ve seen a trend towards more private tours being booked, and smaller group sizes across the board, as a result of the pandemic.”

Hilty also predicted that multi-day tours will grow in the future, because “people will do less trips”, but will choose to take “longer ones and spend more time in a faraway destination”, as opposed to multiple short hops.

Staying longer in a destination would also be more sustainable in terms of transportation. Travis Pittman, co-founder and CEO at TourRadar, cited the example of a traveller who instead of holidaying in Rio de Janiero for just two days, opted for a longer, two-week stay in Brazil.

Brian Young, managing director at G Adventures, highlighted that the pandemic has taught people to appreciate the privilege of travel, and the importance of travel to their well-being, and is confident that newfound awareness would translate to them travelling more responsibly.

He added that experiential travel will gain further popularity in the wake of the pandemic. Reflecting this, Young noted that G Adventures has seen a growing interest in the agency’s “bucket-list type tours”, such as climbing to the base of Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travis Pittman, co-founder and CEO at TourRadar, has also noticed searches for “polar expeditions” and other bucket-list items trending.

Experiences aside, reconnecting with friends and family is also a noticeable trend among post-pandemic travellers.

Pittman offered: “We have run trips since September 2020 and we have seen an increase in private group bookings with tailor-made elements. Family and friends just want to get away, while being in the security of a cocoon. Also, some groups have not seen each other in a long time, and the ‘bubble’ would help them reconnect with one another.”

In light of this, during Covid-19, G Adventures launched Book Your Bubble, a collection of 80 tours that groups can personalise and book. Young strongly believes that such tours will continue to be popular even after the pandemic subsides.

Solo travellers are also keen to hit the road again, but they desire to travel “in the comfort and security of a small group tour with like-minded people”.

On the topic of personalisation, Pittman noted: “(Previously), the multi-day tour sector has been fairly rigid, with not a lot of flexibility possible. (But with the pandemic), operators have realised that customers want to make changes without getting charged with a hefty fee.”

In the long run, Pittman believes that multi-tour operators would gain greater appeal as consumers who previously booked everything by themselves have realised it’s more complicated to obtain refunds when borders were swiftly shut.

He explained: “The benefit of booking through a tour operator is that you’ve got everything together; and one person, instead of seven different organisations, to (approach for) refunds.”

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